Usually, I sleep with my room's curtains wide open, trading privacy while I sleep for the natural light that helps me wake up in the morning. In fact, one of the strange things about my apartment back in Gambier is that the bedroom is two feet from a sidewalk leading to my neighbors' apartments, so that it doesn't really feel as though it's acceptable to leave my curtains or blinds open while I sleep--since we're all on the ground floor and the window in that room is huge. At least there, the curtains are light white cotton. Here, they're heavy stripey fabric, backed with solid grey liners. Not much light gets through these things, which is ideal for people who need a dark room in order to sleep.
I, a rock sleeper (which is to say, touch wood: a rock star sleeper), do not need a dark room in order to get to sleep or to stay asleep.
For some reason, last night, I decided to close the curtains. It was fairly capricious, not really a response to our having closed the curtains for bed while my visitor was here this week. And so what a surprise it was when my alarm rang and I wandered across the room to look outside--only to see this:
Funny: just last week, I was saying to my visiting friend that it was a bit of a bummer not to have gotten to see Cambridge in the snow, and here it came. The flakes were fat and fast, and they were piling up so swiftly on my balcony that I thought, Right! I should walk over to the colleges and take some pictures. But it was 8:30 a.m., and it was so warm in my flat (and, more specifically, in my pajamas in my flat), and I was sorely tempted to make some coffee and get back into bed. However! I am not one to let such a great photo opportunity slip past me, not most of the time. Instead of slothing back into bed, I changed into many layers of clothing, laced up my Gore-Tex shoes (what a right purchase those were), grabbed my camera, and toddled on into town. I even almost kind of remembered how to dress for freezing precipitation (having bombed on this one yesterday): heavy scarf, wrapped around bottom of face; hat; hood over hat.
I'm happy to say that I timed my walk perfectly: the snow was still falling fast, clinging to branches in lovely ways, and much of the Cantabrigian world was still at home, presumably sleeping, eating an Easter breakfast, getting ready for an Easter service, or doing something else altogether because they don't celebrate Easter. The people I saw while I walked around snapping pictures were, by and large, other photographers.
The whole time I walked, the bells of Great St. Mary's, the University's official church, were ringing changes to clamor Easter in. Because of the way sound travels through the colleges and out to the Backs, it almost seemed as though King's College Chapel were letting off all those peals, and then as though Trinity's chapel were, and then as though maybe it were Clare. I knew it was actually Great St. Mary's, but the distortions themselves were somehow exquisite.
The one picture I wanted that I didn't take was of Nevile's Court at Trinity. It's the court with the Wren Library at its end, opposite Trinity's massive dining hall. It has a promenade that runs around three of its sides (the fourth side being the hall), and that promenade is arched all along its length. I stood just inside the promenade, out of the snow for just a moment, and watched the flakes falling into the court between me and the rows of windows across that court that the promenade's arches framed. The bells sang out from the center of town. Two porters stood in their bowler hats and great coats near the door out of the court and into the hall; I knew that if I opened my camera bag and took a picture, it would not only disturb the peace of the scene but also draw their attention, which would in turn earn me an instruction not to be in the college, given that the "no entry" sign had been posted outside the gate by which I entered. And so I simply stood and looked and listened.
Until the porters came over, as they had been ready to do anyhow, and told me (very kindly) that the college was closed for safety reasons--all that slippery snow, you see. I have not yet had a reason to be disagreeable to a porter, and so I smiled and told them that I'd just come in to see how the court looked, and asked whether I could keep going through New Court and out to Trinity Lane. They assented but told me to be careful. Along the way, I did peek into Great Court for a few pictures. They didn't check up on me.
The snow was a real mess by this point, falling as hard as it was. Even though I have many favorite places off the beaten path by now, I mainly wanted to visit some high points on my usual Cambridge itineraries, photograph them with falling snow, and then get back to my warm flat (and pajamas-in-flat). So a quick turn through King's it was, and then through Clare, and then back up the walk (past a massive group of German tourists who, all on their own, made me gladder than ever that my walk had been so relatively deserted), and then back into my own space. Whose warmth I now relished even more.
And happy birthday to my brother, in whose honor, really, I took this walk. Without him, I wouldn't take half the pictures I do or have half the love I have in me. He is a stupendousness in my life, the best of all possible brothers.